I Went to Visit the Witch of Endor . . .

. . . but I didn’t realize it at the time. Typical Ellin.

Yesterday afternoon I went to the nearby kibbutz of Ein Dor to meet up with a ceramic artist that I know. I wanted to commission something special for a dear friend of mine and so we decided to meet at the artist’s kibbutz. I asked my friend, Ephraim, if he’d like to join me. Ephraim is also a recent oleh to Afula and we both share a penchant for exploring our new country without any real set plans. Just put a few places on a list and head out . . .and if something else captures your fancy, then just turn into a different road and explore that one.  Serendipity rarely disappoints.

The road to the kibbutz took us up north, past Mount Tabor and through some winding ways through fields of olive trees and vineyards. Part of the road was lined with tall cypresses, other parts with rows of Eucalyptus trees whose long leaf-filled branches swayed in the air, dancing with the hill-top breezes. Had the fields been just a bit greener, you could almost convince yourself that you were in Provence (minus the Eucalyptus trees). It is one of the most beautiful, pastoral vistas in Northern Israel, made more intense by the fact that this beauty just appears as you come around a bend in the road. For just a few seconds you’re free of any external concerns — there are no political, economic, or religious hot buttons. The land is just there. Pure, simple, and welcoming on a hot summer’s afternoon.

As we turned into the kibbutz, I saw a sign bearing Israel’s ubiquitous symbol for an archaeological site: a stylized face of a Roman temple with it’s pediment atop a row of fat columns. That’s all I need to get excited. A dig! A museum! We’re walking through history!

Wow! I said to Ephraim. I didn’t realize there was a tell here. “Sure,” he replied. “This is where King Saul went the night before his final, epic battle on nearby Mt. Gilboa” [where all was lost and he fell on his sword in shame and sorrow at the loss of his army and his sons to the Philistines]. He continued, “He came here to meet the witch of Ein Dor, and for her to summon the ghost of the prophet Samuel. Saul, abandoned by any signs from God pleaded to know how he would fare in the next day’s battle. Samuel wasn’t too thrilled to have been pulled from his eternal rest and chastised Saul for dragging him into the realm of the living. When Saul pleaded for Samuel to tell him what the outcome of the next’s day’s battle would be, Samuel retorted, ‘I will not meet with you, but you will meet with me!’ “

There it was. The moment where I realized the connection between Ein Dor and Endor. The Witch of Endor. “Really?” I shouted at myself, more in annoyance at my own delayed ability to make the connection rather than the realization of the connection itself. The Witch of Endor! For some reason, I had thought she was a fiction of Old English tales, that she dwelt in a dark, enchanted forest in an ancient England lost in time and necromancy. Or was she Roman, living in a small temple high atop an inaccessible mountain, sniffing noxious, psychotropic gases emitted from a crack in the precipice’s rock face? But legend puts her here in the Jezreel Valley, only 15 minutes away from my home? Couldn’t be.

And how had I not made the connection between Ein Dor and Endor. Much like Beit Lechem and Bethlehem (the “House of Bread,” or area where grew fields of grain, life’s sustenance), there it was . . . just waiting for me to put the two halves together and wait for that glorious, “ah HA!” feeling. To be honest, that’s one of the best things about getting lost in Israel. You never know when you’ll run smack into the bridge between past and present.

As for visiting the Witch herself, they say that if you walk around the fields, you just might find her. So I’ll have to return again and visit the tell. Maybe, if I’m lucky enough, I just might run into her. The problem is, I  have no idea what to ask her. I’m not so sure I’d like someone to tell me my future. I’m having too much fun discovering it for myself.

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